Charities slam ATOS and the DWP over attitude towards people with degenerative conditions

It will come as no surprise to campaigners that four leading charities – Parkinson’s UK, MS Society, National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust – have reported to the BBC that thousands of people with progressive conditions are being told they could recover enough to look for work following assessment for Employment Support Allowance. Confronted with this criticism the Department for Work and Pensions responded: “It’s ridiculous to suggest that we think people with degenerative conditions will ‘recover'”, but the charities have referred to the situation as “farcical” and say it “defies belief”.
Although the BBC has broadcast critical reports on Atos and the government’s controversial Work Capability Assessment it has been relatively low key coverage when one considers the impact that this is having on people’s lives. One sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis said that on bad days even the smallest movements cause intense pain. Having been forced to give up work she was assessed and placed in Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). She explained that stress exacerbates her rheumatoid arthritis. “The stress of feeling you’re on the scrap heap and that you’re not believed, and to think that I’m going to be forced to go back into work even though I can’t, that had a huge impact on me.”
Around 45% of the 13,600 people with cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or rheumatoid arthritis applying for Employment Support Allowance between 2008 and 2011 were placed in the WRAG after assessment. The charities insist such cases should have been placed in the Support Group, which does not require claimants to seek work. Caroline Hacker, Head of Policy at Parkinson’s UK said “To set up a system which tells people who’ve had to give up work because of a debilitating progressive condition that they’ll recover, is farcical and simply defies belief.”
The incredible defence put up by the Department for Work and Pensions was “… it is important that we don’t simply write people off. There is strong evidence that working can be beneficial for many people who have a health condition.” A spokesperson from Atos Healthcare emphasized – as usual – that the final decision is always made by the DWP, adding: “Our healthcare professionals are trained in the assessment of chronic and progressive conditions such as Parkinson’s and understand that, sadly, some people’s conditions will only get worse over time”.
Apart from the strong evidence suggesting the health professionals are not as qualified as they ought to be, there is every reason to fear that the conditions facing disabled and sick people subjected to this system will only get worse.
It is time to scrap the entire scheme and end the farcical situation where people unfit for work are being targeted and told to seek employment where none is available.


One comment

  1. Politics has become a game for politicians of ´who can stay in power longest and get most votes¨. NOT as it should be: How can we help the country and the people suffering?

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